Washington Examiner Op-Ed Calls Into Question Motives Of FDA

Washington Examiner contributor Guy Bentley posts a critique of FDA’s aversion to releasing information used in making the controversial Deeming Rule.

The Washington Examiner was founded in 2005 as a daily conservative newspaper. At its height it displaced The Times as the most influential conservative paper in Washington D.C. Although well known for its right leaning national political coverage, it also gained critical acclaim for its exceptional local articles and sections. In early 2013 they announced their conversion from a daily newspaper focused mainly on D.C. into a weekly magazine dealing with national politics at large. Guy Bentley’s Op -Ed on the status of the Obama era FDA Deeming Rule is right in the new-ish political wheelhouse of the WE.

Critique of the FDA

Mr. Bentley expresses a frustration that many of us have personally felt to varying degrees. The frustration of dealing with, often inept, government bureaucracy. If the all too common slow pace of reform prevents necessary changes to the Deeming Rule before it goes fully into effect, it would likely spell disaster for countless small business owners. Bentley warns the “vast majority” of independently owned vape shops would be forced to close in 2022 as a result of the new rules. Conversely he argues, as the evidence builds for the valuable harm reduction of vaping over smoking, it is even more critical now than ever that the FDA explains their reasoning to the American citizens. Especially owed an explanation are people working in affected industries, who would be dramatically affected by the Deeming Rule in its current form. One person who has been fighting since the start is Jeff Stier, a senior fellow for the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Battle For Information

Bentley gives the account of how Mr. Stier has been actively working to get the FDA to disclose the “relevant documents relating to one of the most important tobacco regulations of modern times” It began in June 2016 with a request for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. According to Mr. Bentley, it’s a common and uncontroversial request for government agencies, especially larger ones, to require applicants to narrow the scope of their request. So when Jeff Stier encountered these kinds of requests he happily obliged. Subsequently, this back and forth has gone on for the last 12 months and in fact still is.

Finally, in June 2017 Mr. Stier was asked to attend a video conference call about the scope of the information wanted. This is an uncommon practice according to Bentley, but undeterred, Stier agreed. The meeting was quickly cancelled due to a “scheduling conflict,” but both parties agreed to reschedule a few weeks later. When Mr. Stier called the Monday of the agreed upon week to get further details, he was flat out ignored. Later that week he received an email from the Office of Regulations that essentially told him his request had been filed, but without his input on what would or would not be included. So as a result, over 10,000 pages of possibly relevant information were pulled. Stier himself said of the ordeal, “Any impact from the error that the Office of Regulations made by jumping the gun before we met to narrow the scope, as we had agreed to do, should fall squarely on that office — not on the public’s right to understand how the rule was made — and in the most timely way possible — even though the FDA already is beyond the statutory response time.” It may take another year or more for Stier to complete the review now with these new obstacles in his way, according to Mr. Bentley.

What’s The Point

Mr. Bentley brings up some very important points about why any of this matters. Firstly, government agencies all too often impede the things they are supposed to be helping. Either through planned or accidental inefficiencies, these practices will always come across as shady because, frankly, they are. It only serves to make legislators look like they have something to hide, even if they do not. What will always be most important is doing what’s best for our health. This often means taking what peer reviewed science has to say and using it to inform our policy making. We must resist the urge to make policy in spite of what the research says, purely because it’s much more popular politically.

What do you think about the FDA’s Deeming Rule? Do you think Mr. Stier is being treated unfairly? When have you had a similarly frustrating experience with inefficient government bureaucracy? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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